United Naga Council in Manipur Electoral Politics
- Part 3 -

Aheibam Koireng *

UNC Logo NPF  Logo
UNC | NPF logo

The NPF Constitution (6th Amendment 2009) has in the Article II, Clause (2)(c) categorically stated as its aims and objectives: to work for Unity and integrity of the people by integrating all contiguous Naga inhabited areas under one administrative roof and also to provide protection to all the ethnic groups who are indigenous inhabitants of the state. Accordingly, NPF has been seeking fortune in in terms of pursuing for election to political office.

In the election held for the Six Autonomous District Councils on June 2015, the NPF had managed to put up a somewhat impressive show by emerging as the second largest party.

The UNC, consistent with their earlier declaration of the ADCs as 'null and void' did not participate overtly in election process of the ADCs in 2015. The NPF Manipur State Unit had welcomed August 03 Framework Agreement of 2015 signed between GoI and NSCN(IM) stating the agreement so signed as a recognition of the Naga's struggle for Self Determination.

On 05 September 2015, all the four NPF MLAs submitted their resignation after the State Assembly passed the three bills for the protection of Manipur people. But all four of them reportedly continued to receive their salaries and entitlements till August 2016. This brings to doubt whether or not their resignation is out of their own free will.

Later, their resignation was accepted on 15 September 2016. The NPF had in the earlier MAE unsuccessfully tried their luck in Henglep AC of Churachandpur where there is some presence of Naga and fared badly. Violence erupted at Churachandpur in the intervening night of 31 August and 01 September 2015 over the controversy of passing three bills for the protection of three bills for the protection of Manipur people leading to the loss of nine civilian lives.

Naga cohorts including NPF and UNC, the NPF endorsee in Manipur found the opportune moment in it to flaunt solidarity for the stated cause of 'Tribal Unity' against the 'communal government' of Manipur. The continuing agitation and the refusal to give a ceremonial burial to those even after the prospects of bill becoming an act is ruled out exposes the intention of those sticking to protest.

Outer Manipur Tribal Forum (OMTF) was a joint venture of the Joint Action Committee against Anti Tribal Bill (JACAATB) and UNC with H. Mangchinkhup of JACAATB and Gaidon Kamei of UNC as the respective Chief Convener and Convener formed to collectively stand against 'anti tribal bill'. Sensing something foul Kukis and Hmars have declared the severing of ties with JACAATB just ahead of observing the second anniversary of the Anti-ILP protest started in 31 August 2015.

Many Kukis particularly Thadous had been very critical with the enthusiastic opportunism of the UNC which at one time had the impudence of serving 'Quit Notice' to the Kukis in Manipur Hills. In fact, those communities who disapprove the movement being piloted by the UNC started dissociating from the JACAATB.

The 13 January Lomgmai Noney attack of 2016 at Tamenglong District resulted to the killing of a civilian and injuring three others. The state police held the NSCN-IM responsible for the attack. The UNC and later the NSCN-IM refuted and counter alleged it to be the handiwork of State Police.

The allegation seemed remote as security arrangement in the area under attack had been in a collaborative effort with the central paramilitary forces. Amidst the refutations and counter allegations, the Vaiphei People's Council (VPC), Paite Tribe Council (PTC), and Mate Tribe Council (MTC) had on 16 January 2016 by withdrawing all their respective nominated members distanced from the JACAATB.

In this ensuing AE, NPF including four Kukis, fielded their candidate in the 15 Scheduled Tribes Reserved ACs of Jiribam, Chandel, Tengnoupal, Phungyar, Ukhrul, Chingai, Saikul, Karong, Mao, Tadubi, Kangkokpi, Saitu, Tamei, Tamenlong and Henglep. In the earlier 10th MAE, 2012, NPF had fielded only one Kuki candidate. The AC along with the candidate from where they fielded are - M. Thangboi Haokip from Saikul, and Sehpu Haokip from Saitu of Senapati District, and L.K. Chongloi from Kangkokpi, and Thongjamlen Haokip from Henglep of Churachandpur District.

All these four ACs are currently represented by Congress. To add a footnote, Ms. Nemcha Kipgen of Kangpokpi District, got elected from the erstwhile Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP) and MSCP in the post-poll later merged to Congress, but she afterwards resigned from the primary membership of the Congress tendered his resignation on January 23, 2017 and is contesting on BJP.

The likelihood of NPF winning from these four ACs is remote, but it will certainly narrow the chance of Congress candidate winning from it. In the ensuing 11th MAE, 2017 also, UNC had reaffirmed its earlier decision of 2012 to support the NPF because of the 'commonality in principle and political ideology' of standing'without reservation for the Naga people in the 2017 MLA election'.

UNC also expressly took the stand that CM 'Ibobi and the MPCC will be opposed by the Nagas and confronted headlong.' The embracing of BJP by the immediate kin of Muivah led NSCN strongmen from Chingai AC defying the ban of the family members of the NSCN-IM's 'national worker from contesting the Indian mainstream election. Mention can be made that the younger fraternal sibling of Mr. Sword Vashum who contested from the Chingai AC of Ukhrul District, Mr. VS Atem was formerly an Army Chief and is still an advisor of the Muivah led NSCN.

And Chingai is considered a prestigious constituency of the outfit, as 'Shongran' popularly known as Somdal, the birthplace of the NSCN-IM Supremo, Th. Muivah also falls in Chingai AC. But with MK Preshow Shimray of Congress winning from the said AC in the last MAE, 2012, it is no longer considered a bastion of NPF.

Mention could also be made that, Mr. Vashum abandoned the NPF as Working President and eventually joined the BJP in NPF. Eyebrows have been raised and even reportedly questioning the wisdom of the BJP Central leadership by a BJP Candidate from the Imphal Valley stating, 'We do not know how our central leadership selected Vashum as a candidate, but his blood ties with NSCN-IM could harm our chances of defeating the Corrupt Congress.'

With only two and six days remaining, this time may be attributive of the unceremonious exit of the TR Zeliang from the Chief Ministership of Nagaland and the associated recent crisis within the NPF in Nagaland where it had its primary base both in terms of manpower and material base, quite contrary from the earlier MAE of 2012,the NPF leadership from its high command had still not shown any enthusiasm.

The creation of new revenue districts, particularly Tengnoupal, Kamjong and Noney was earlier welcomed by its local inhabitants. It is worth collecting that the involvements of locals in enforcing blockade at the Naga-dominated major stretch of Imphal-Jiribam Highway got subsided with the declaration of Noney District and was even given a candle lit welcome.

The declaration of Kamzong District was immediately welcomed by Tangkhul Naga Kuki Welfare Association, Eastern Kuki Chiefs Association and Razian Long, though in the aftermath there have been cases of retracting their respective welcome statement. In Tengnoupal also, many have organized Thanks Giving for granting a full-fledged District.

Whether the continued opposition to the creation of new districts, prolonged opposition, the potential resistance from the Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front, Zeliangrong United Front, other Naga Rebel outfits, prolonged economic blockade, and the grudges over the NPF's choice of candidate, as some NPF offices have been ransacked on account of it, will or will not prove to be a dent in the NPF's quest for seeking fortune in terms of political office will soon be unfolded.


* Aheibam Koireng wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is Assistant Professor, Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University
This article was posted on March 12, 2017.

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